Despite difficult circumstances, the container segment held firm in 2021. In the first quarter of 2022, however, container traffic saw a fall of 11.6% in TEU compared to the same period last year, the second best quarter ever for containers. The disruption to container liner trade, delays and high import call sizes (number of containers unloaded by ships) are posing protracted operational challenges, which are making the operation of the container terminals more difficult. Moreover, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the sanctions imposed also put pressure on the number of containers handled.
Conventional general cargo: continued growth
Conventional general cargo grew by 49.1% compared to the weak first quarter of 2021,. Steel, the major category of goods within this segment, is holding firm on the export side. The sanctions prohibiting the import of steel from Russia and Belarus since mid-March are having only a limited effect on throughput. After all, these flows are being replaced by imports from other countries because the EU has redistributed the import quota for steel from Russia and Belarus across other steel-exporting countries.
RoRo: disruptions due to production of new vehicles
RoRo saw slight growth (+2.4%), but there has been a significant fall in tonnage since the strong last quarter of 2021. The problems with the production of new vehicles are still affecting the throughput volumes.
Rise in dry and liquid bulk
After a strong 2021 in which Q1 was one of the best quarters ever, the throughput of fertilisers is dropping (-19,6%), which is due in part to the sanctions in respect of Russia as well as the sharp rise in prices. Thanks to the rise in the throughput of ores, coal and particularly grain, the dry bulksegment grew by 11.1% compared to the same period last year. Liquid bulk is also seeing a rise (+15.3%) compared to the first quarter of 2021, with a growth of 16.6% in petroleum derivatives. The throughput of chemicals remains strong, likewise seeing a growth of 16.6%, despite the challenges owing to high feedstock prices. The doubling of biofuels was notable within this segment.
Figures confirm importance of merger and extra container capacity
The announcement of these quarterly figures comes on the eve of the merger with Port of Zeebrugge. Compared to the first quarter of 2021, all the cargo types are showing growth except for containers.
Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp: “The protracted challenges in the logistics chain are revealed in the figures. These are the latest figures we at Port of Antwerp are announcing. They confirm that through this merger, we will gain a stronger position for the future. Along with Zeebrugge, we have the ability to further reinforce our position in the international logistics chain, in the current complex geopolitical and macro-economic context.”
Annick De Ridder, Vice-Mayor City of Antwerp & President Port of Antwerp: “The economic urgency for additional container capacity is demonstrated again and more than ever by these declining figures and the congestion problems. Extra container capacity is indispensable to secure our position as a world port. Thanks to the recent positive outcome of the negotiations on the ECA project, we have already taken an extremely important step. The unified port will thus be able to further face international competition and continue to grow sustainably as the engine of the Flemish economy.”